Our weekend away had arrived. Soon 5 of us women would be piling into a van to head to our annual church retreat where we would spend time laughing, learning and most importantly, eating delicious meals we didn't have to cook.
Gathering at our driver’s house, we lined up our suitcases to load into the back of her vehicle. One suitcase - my sister’s - stood out due to it being the oh-so-attention getting shade of safety cone orange. She admitted it was her luggage from over 20 years ago, but it had served her well and didn't show any wear so she’d never replaced it. Mixed in with our other traveling bags of contemporary purples, blacks, tapestries and polka dots, we couldn't help but razz her a little bit that she might want to look into new luggage when we got back….
That being said, we headed off and had a marvelous time. As always, the weekend passed quickly and the retreat was over all too soon. Before we knew it, it was time to return home. Back in my friend’s van we and our belongings went on Sunday afternoon, our heads and hearts (and stomachs) full of all we had taken in over the past two days. We chatted among ourselves going home, sharing stories the whole way, eager to get back to our families waiting for us.
And then we heard the clunk. And felt the lurch. And realized we had to get off the road fast because, just as we were nearing our destination, we had a flat tire.
Sighs of deflation were heard all around.
To make matters worse, we were on a busy, crowded highway where the only place to pull off was a strip of macadam barely wide enough to be called a shoulder. It was more like a “You’ll be lucky if you can squeeze your car in here; don’t try opening any doors” space. But, pull off we did and sat there to assess our fate for a moment. A few of us got out of the van to inspect said flat tire, but quickly realized we were taking our lives in our hands by doing so as the flat was on the driver’s side, which was only inches away from a steady stream of fully mobile cars going 60 miles an hour.
Back in the van, we called AAA, who promised to come help us but also promised it would be well over an hour before they would arrive. Ugh. All we could do was wait in the van on our cramped little strip of roadside. The more we sat there with multitudes of traffic whizzing by us to our left, the more we felt like sitting ducks waiting to be plowed into from behind by someone not realizing we were at a dead, parked stop.
We knew we needed something. A marker of sorts that we could put out behind our vehicle to let other drivers know to watch out for us. Something that would get their attention and cause them to notice that our van was helplessly over to the side, to alert them to steer clear of us…..
That’s the moment we remembered we were in possession of one very bright orange suitcase.
Upon that realization, a few of us tumbled out of the van, opened the back hatch and pulled my sister’s luggage to the front of the pile. It was absolutely perfect ; the color was so bold and brazen that we put the piece at an angle right behind the flat tire. Immediately we felt safer. And a little ashamed of ourselves. What we had originally advised her to replace was exactly what we needed right now.
We did not get hit- fortunately- and the neon orange of the suitcase even alerted a passing truck driver that we were in need of assistance. He stopped ahead of us, changed our flat and we were on our way home before AAA even had a chance to call back. What could have been a major headache in our day turned out to be just a small interruption on our way home, and the rest of the trip was event free.
I am not sure if my sister ever bought new luggage, but I’m glad she hadn’t prior to that trip. God knew we were going to need what she had; He is that much in the details. He can use the outdated things, the less-than-trendy pieces, and the not-so-much-like-all-the-rest parts of us to accomplish His purposes. We don’t have to be the latest, the greatest, or the best in order for Him to use us. We just need to be His.
All in all the weekend was a huge success, thanks to a bright orange suitcase and a very creative, all-knowing God.